“Attitude is Everything”

Colette Bourgonje’s story compels us to persevere. Her “Attitude is Everything” approach is why she was ranked one of the world’s foremost Paralympian’s. Nine time medalist in both summer and winter games, inductee into the Canadian Disability and Saskatoon Hall of Fame and winner of both Saskatoon and Saskatchewan’s Female Athlete of the Year, Colette’s career exemplifies that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

When Saskatchewan Metis, Colette Bourgonje speaks about overcoming adversity, she knows what she is talking about.

Imagine a young vibrant athlete at eighteen, being told she would never walk again and would be wheelchair bound for life. Most people would only see a mountain of obstacles ahead, but not Colette Bourgonje. She didn’t just live her life in a wheelchair, she went on to master the Paralympian world.

In 1980, after having competed nationally as a cross country runner, Colette Bourgonje, was involved in a car accident that left her paralyzed. Rather than letting this tragedy consumer her, or her dreams, she turned it into a triumph. With her “attitude is everything” approach to life, Colette went on to pursue her sports career and became the most decorated Paralympian in the world. On top of that Colette became the first wheelchair bound graduate of the University of Saskatchewan`s Physical Education Department.

Bourgonje competed in seven Winter Paralympic Games (Albertville, Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake City, Torino, Vancouver, Sochi) and three Summer Paralympic Games (Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney). In April 2014, Bourgonje announced her retirement from competition after a brilliant career which concluded a month earlier at the Paralympic Games in Sochi.

Though there have been too many highlights in her athletic career for Bourgonje to pick one, she points to her silver medals in Nagano and Vancouver as particularly special. In Nagano, they were her first medals in Nordic events and marked her as a medalist in winter and summer events. Her silver in Vancouver was also the first ever Canadian Paralympic medal to be won at home.

Bourgonje`s achievements after the Nagano Games lead the City of Saskatoon to name a Crescent, Terrace and Court after her. Her attitude for life also inspired author Mary Harelkin Bishop to write “Moving Forward - The Journey of Paralympian Colette Bourgonje” and “Gina`s Wheels” a children`s book.

  • Charles R. Swindoll